Oscar, Willie, Goody, and Other Greats

by Jay Nordlinger

A couple of weeks ago, Oscar Gamble died. He was a baseball player, for the Cleveland Indians and other teams. He happened to be the first ballplayer I ever saw, live and in the flesh. I wrote about this in my column yesterday.

My dad took me to my first Tigers game. I want to say I was about ten. We were playing the Cleveland Indians. My dad and I walked into Tiger Stadium and there was Oscar Gamble at the plate. He was taking batting practice. I recognized him from news photos, and maybe from television: His terrific Afro was bulging from under his helmet. I knew instantly that it was Gamble.

A reader writes,

I loved it when Oscar Gamble came to the plate, Afro dwarfing the batting helmet atop his head. Your remembrance of seeing him in the flesh brought back a very pleasant memory of my own.

I saw my first baseball game on Patriots’ Day at Fenway Park in 1972. Our seats were along the third-base line, allowing for a great view of the leftfielder.

The opposition on this morning (11 a.m. start on Patriots’ Day) was your Tigers. Eight years old at the time, I was mesmerized by Willie Horton — by his idiosyncrasy of wearing his batting helmet while patrolling the outfield. It was unusual then. It is unusual now.

I later read that Horton used only one batting helmet throughout his career. Apparently, he painted it to match uniform colors when he played for Texas, Oakland, and Seattle. That’s much mileage on a helmet assigned double duty over the span of a long, illustrious career.

I don’t remember the final score of the game, but Mickey Lolich pitched, so the Red Sox never had a chance.

On my bedroom door were two posters: Beethoven and Lolich.

A distinguished lady writes,

Don’t want to be smug, but my uncle was Goody Rosen, who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and was an All-Star in 1945. I spent my childhood hanging out with my dad and Dixie Walker and the rest. Dixie was so tall, he was much more impressive than my uncle. (Goody was one of the first Canadian and Jewish ballplayers in the majors.)

Great stuff.

The Corner

The one and only.